The majority of a development director’s time and energy should be focused externally through donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. But there are a few things to set up internally that will help you be more successful, enhance your revenue strategy, and take your external efforts to new heights. Add sophistication and increased revenue to your fundraising strategy by doing these five internal steps:

1. Partner with your Executive Director.

I often hear that many executive directors are not invested in the development department or revenue generation. An executive director who does not make revenue a priority is essentially a highly-paid program person. I do not know of one CEO in the for-profit arena who chooses not to care about sales. As development director, you need to make fundraising relevant for all members of the leadership team. These tactics might help:

  • Meet with your ED at least twice a month
  • Make your meeting more about strategy and vision than low-level tactics
  • The meeting should be a conversation where ideas are exchanged, not a speech where one person talks and the other listens
  • Provide 5-7 “to-dos” for your ED each month (calling to thank donors, emailing trustees, etc.)
  • Facilitate wins for your ED (the more successes s/he has, the more engaged s/he will be!)

2. Train Your Program Staff in Basic Fundraising.

The program experts are often secret weapons when it comes to securing gifts. Because they are on the front lines, delivering the programs that your nonprofit offers, they often have the best stories and can speak first-hand about the constituency served. Work with the program staff to get their elevator speech crafted and equip them with articulate messaging of exactly what the organization does and what it needs. When they are out delivering programs and someone asks “how can I help?” they will have an answer!

3. Cultivate your CFO.

The development director/CFO relationship can be one of the most strained relationships within a nonprofit. You speak different languages, see the world through opposing lenses; one is a numbers person and the other is a relationship person, you like “counting” and your CFO likes “accounting.” I understand that your CFO likes forecasting monthly gifts down to the day and you like utilizing fuzzy dates. But the saving grace and common ground is that you both care about the mission. Invite your CFO to coffee at least quarterly and talk about how you might work together. You’re coming from different perspectives and have different goals, but I promise this is a relationship worth cultivating.

4. Assess the Landscape and Build a Strategic Plan.

Your organization’s financial history and fundraising efforts are important to review, it will help you understand what worked and what flopped. Take an afternoon to look at the fundraising results for the last three years – everything from direct mail appeals to donors who made major gifts to donors who lapsed. Review your retention rate to see where you’re losing donors and look at the average gift of recaptured donors. You might find that you don’t need an acquisition plan at all, you just need to recapture long-lapsed donors. There are amazing nuggets to be found and these nuggets will help you pursue the most fruitful opportunities.

5. Get your Systems in Check.

Your fundraising systems, when properly built, will help you retain donors and ensure that constituents are communicated with in an appropriate and timely manner. You should be able to count on your systems when you are out-and-about raising money. Keep your database clean and have standards in place to capture all the data you need. Build a stewardship matrix that serves as a heartbeat of communication with donors. Look at your meeting schedules with staff and streamline as many as possible.

These are five internal efforts that will revolutionize your external efforts. It is hard to be internal when every fundraising cell in your body craves to be external, but I promise this is time well spent. Once the relationships and systems are built, all you have to do is maintain them

I’d love to hear your ideas and what has worked for you in the past. Kindly post below.